UK government splashes £1.5m into science and tech investment drive

The UK government is committing £1.5m on a marketing campaign to turbocharge the nation’s science and technology sector, aiming to spark a surge in investment in UK-based tech ventures. Tech Secretary Michelle Donelan is set to reveal the fresh campaign during a techUK conference in London today. The initiative is urging UK investors to back science and technology scale-up businesses, specifically those at Series A-C level and beyond.

The global investment downturn last year dealt a significant blow to UK scale-ups, leaving them scrambling for much-needed support. While the UK has a burgeoning venture capital community for early-stage projects, many of its growing scale-ups have been seeking greener pastures across the Atlantic, where institutional funds provide better support for their next stage of growth.

“The UK has built a £1 trillion tech sector from a thriving start-up scene, outpacing our European counterparts at every turn and creating innovators capable of shaping the global economy,” said Donelan ahead of her speech. “With further capital, there is absolutely no limit to where start-ups can take their ideas. But too often, founders look to other parts of the world to find that next level of funding.”

According to the government, a single Series A investment averaging around £2m could match the £1.5m cost of the campaign’s initial round. Similar government initiatives have yielded returns as high as tenfold, and it expects comparable results over three years.

The campaign, with a particular focus on the underfunded deep tech sector, will target venture capital hubs in London, Edinburgh, Belfast, and Cardiff. Its aim is to align venture capitalists with the government’s ambitious agenda of establishing the UK as a science and tech ‘superpower’.

Damian Skendrovic, GM, EMEA, VeUP, said: “The UK is home to some of the world’s most disruptive and exciting technology start-ups and it’s encouraging to see the government recognise that fact by unlocking this much needed investment. It’s crucial to recognise that today’s scale up companies are set to unleash huge growth in the economy, creating jobs, opportunities and making Britain a world-leader in key areas such as cyber defence and artificial intelligence expertise.”

In last week’s Spring Budget announcement, Chancellor Jeremy Hunt proclaimed that the UK is on track to become the world’s next Silicon Valley. However, tech leaders were quick to refute this claim, especially as the government opted not to reverse the cuts to the R&D tax credits regime, which startups had been hoping for. Although the recent Spring Budget provided some positives, including doubled AI funding and a £360m R&D package, there is still room for improvement, they argued.

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Donelan said: “There has never been a better time to invest in British tech companies – with the UK leading on every key European metric and leading the world on emerging technologies like safe AI. Our Science and Tech Superpower campaign all but knocks on the doors of venture capitalists and scale-ups across the country. It asks them to seize the opportunities that lie in front of them so we can take the UK to the next level of tech leadership.”

Wayne Johnson, CEO and Co-Founder of Encompass Corporation, commented: “With the Chancellor doubling down on the UK’s Silicon Valley ambitions in the Spring Budget, government support, through investment and widespread promotion, is an essential piece of the puzzle.

“Showcasing a thriving technology sector plays an important role in attracting investment throughout the UK, including from overseas investors. Whether it be automation technology that facilitates enhanced Know Your Customer (KYC) processes to fight financial crime and charge business growth, or the evolution of AI in the HR and talent spaces, tangible backing of development through investment and government guidance is key to unlocking the game-changing innovation that will drive the country forward.

“Against the backdrop of a turbulent economy, especially, technology can be a critical driver of growth for businesses and wider industry, streamlining operations and boosting efficiencies, as well as creating jobs.

“The government has many ambitions for the UK; to be a leading financial hub, to be a science and technology superpower, to be the next Silicon Valley. The common thread is that for all those ambitions to be achieved, we need a vibrant, best-of-breed tech sector that attracts interest and investment at all stages and corners to propel it forward.”

SME Publications/ SME XPO 2024